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A Quick Look at What We're Watching This Session

Alyssa Hansen
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As House and Senate committees start discussing multiple bills each week and agendas become more crowded, the bulk of our legislative work is getting underway.

Now that the filing deadline has passed, we've finally had a chance to finish digging through all of the more than 1,500 pieces of legislation that were filed in both chambers. As we do every year, we're keeping an eye on bills that not only affect Tennessee's working families but also ones that deal with election laws, government organization, and much more.

Currently, we're tracking about 275 total bills--keep in mind that this number could change over the course of session as we learn more details about various pieces of legislation.

Compared to the past few years, there are noticeably more caption bills filed for the first half of the 113th Tennessee General Assembly. As a reminder, caption bills are pieces of legislation that may look "innocent" or appear to do one thing but actually do something else that often tends to be more harmful. An example of a caption bill from 2022 would be House Bill 2111/SB 2142, which originally appeared to deal with a study of the Child Labor Act of 1976 but actually sought to tie the hands of private businesses that may want to locate in Tennessee in the future by making them ineligible to receive state monies or be required to return them if any votes on worker representation were not held by a secret ballot election.

While we were able to successfully stop this legislation last year, we are also fully expecting to see it again this session, especially because the exact same caption has been filed as HB 1263/SB 850.

We'll try our best to keep these weekly updates as short and informative as possible so that you're able to share them with your members, especially when calls to action are needed over the next several months.

Listed below is a snapshot of the new legislation that we're watching this year. As a reminder, this is far from a complete list. Rather, these are simply a few important bills (whether good or bad) that affect working families.

In addition to our two proactively-filed pieces of legislation (which we'll discuss in future updates), here's a quick glance at some of the many bills that we're watching this session...

-HB 950/SB 792: Only a couple of years after the legislature chose to cut the amount of time that someone could receive unemployment benefits, this bill would add to the work search requirements needed to keep those benefits.

-HB 139/SB 83: A proposal that's being monitored by our ATU affiliates, this would require a driver to only be present behind the wheel of a lead vehicle of a platoon instead of each vehicle.

-HB 712/SB 108: This piece of legislation raises the wages of preferred service employees in the Department of Correction by 15%.

-HB 278/SB 166: This bill would allow local governments to set the standards on leave policies for government contractors or businesses in their community. 

-HB 744/SB 1022: According to this piece of legislation, employers would be required to allow their employees who are local elected officials to leave work to perform their duties and use their paid time off if they would like to do so.

-HB 747/SB 1511: A good bill, this would enact the "CEO Pay Disparity Tax Act" and impose a pay disparity surcharge on each company whose top executive is paid at least 100 times more than the average income of their employees.

-HB 302/SB 286: In an effort to increase transparency at the Tennessee General Assembly, this piece of legislation would require lobbyists to wear a badge at all times while at the Capitol that shows their name and employer.

-HB 625/SB 356: This bill would allow a labor representative to be present during mediation for a workers' compensation claim.

-HB 417/SB 383: Among other things, this piece of legislation would prohibit employers from asking about or requiring an applicant to provide their past pay history.

-HB 1099/SB 1101: A very bad bill, this would end the practice of early voting in Tennessee.

-HB 1372/SB 1407: Showing the incredibly misplaced priorities of some of our lawmakers, this would rename "Rep. John Lewis Way" near the Capitol as "President Donald Trump Boulevard." As of right now, this supposedly has little support from leadership in both chambers.

A Brief Look at Some of the Additional Legislation That We're Watching Next Week

-HB 48/SB 87: One of the earliest headline-grabbing pieces of legislation this year, this is targeted directly at Nashville's Metro Council and would cap the number of members on the governing body of a metropolitan government at 20.This bill is a petty, vindictive retaliation by the supermajority for the Council blocking the 2024 Republican National Convention.

-HB 134/SB 203: Wading into a potentially messy election-related issue, this would exempt churches and other religious organizations from the Campaign Financial Disclosure Act of 1980 when spending money on issues related to "public or private morality" (alcohol, drugs, gambling, etc.)

-HB 405/SB 452: Another election-related bill, this would require voters to declare a party affiliation before casting their ballot in a primary election.

-HB 948/SB 1329: This piece of legislation designates the second Monday in April as "Tennessee Lineworker Appreciation Day."

-HB 82/SB 263: This bill makes various tweaks to Tennessee's Workers' Compensation laws. We'll be watching this closely for any last-minute amendments that could negatively impact workers.

-HJR 13: Another piece of legislation that has already made headlines, this would authorize moving county elections from August to November, potentially confusing voters and giving the supermajority an additional opportunity to add to its power.